Finding My Voice

“You’re a voice in this world and you deserve to be heard!” Say it Nicole.

“You’re a voice in this world and you deserve to be heard!”

No. Say it about yourself, “I’m a voice in this world and I deserve to be heard!”

“I’m a voice in this world and I deserve to be heard?”

Good! Now say it with conviction. Like you believe it!

“I’m a voice in this world and I deserve to be heard!”

Yes. Say it loud! Shout it to the world!

“I’M A VOICE IN THIS WORLD AND I DESERVE TO BE HEARD!”

Good. Now keep saying it to yourself. Say it every day. Keep repeating it to yourself until you believe it. Because you’re a bright girl; you’re very smart; you know a lot; and you have a lot to say; and what you have to say is worthwhile. You just need to say it. So what if you make a mistake? We all make mistakes; all the time. Give yourself a break. Give yourself a chance to fail.

Such was the conversation between my dance coach at church and me some 20 years ago. It wasn’t just me. There were five others in our little dance ministry group. But it was especially poignant for me, being the shy one of the group.

Fear of speaking up, being heard. This has plagued me my entire life. It still does. Early in my career, a colleague mistook my shyness for taking myself too seriously. Or maybe she was spot on the money. Could it be that I couldn’t cut myself some slack to appear foolish? Was this why I was so afraid to say something? Anything?

I had a classmate in school who always seemed to have a question for the teacher. Even when the material presented was perfectly clear to me, she had her hand in the air, requesting permission to ask her question. I used to wonder if she asked the questions just for the sake of asking. Even now, when I attend seminars and the like, I wonder if sometimes people just ask questions because they want to be seen and heard because the answers seem so obvious (to me) or the issues have already been raised and answered. I could never understand. Why are they prolonging the event with these useless questions? How do they even come up with these questions? Yet, if I really have a question, I would sit in my seat, heart pumping a million beats a minute, hands shaking like a 6.0 on the Richter scale, agonizing over whether I really needed to know the answer; maybe someone else would ask it for me (sometimes they would). Most times the opportunity would pass, my heart would slow, my hands would be still and I’d be left with the regret that I didn’t take that opportunity, not only to get my answer, but to be seen, to be heard.

I’m a voice in this world and I deserve to be heard?

But on those few occasions that I actually mustered the courage to voice what I had to say, voice shaking and all, I was always rewarded. Rewarded with a thoughtful answer, perhaps a thank you from a fellow audience member who also wanted the answer to my question, but was similarly too shy to ask.

I’m a voice in this world and I deserve to be heard!

After all these years, have I convinced myself? Have I let go of my shyness? Am I bold? Have I found my voice? I often observe self-professed former shy people who seem so comfortable in their skin, so comfortable speaking out, so comfortable voicing their opinions, loudly, and with conviction, and I wonder when they made the transition, how they made the transition. Was it instantaneous? A moment of epiphany? Or was it more gradual, like me? For sure, I’m not as quiet and shy as I once was. But if you ask most people to describe me, they would describe me as such. I get asked all the time, why are you so quiet? Are you OK? And I think to myself, suppose you knew me when I was really quiet? I have seen my evolution, however subtle. I’m still a work in progress. I’m still evolving. I’m still finding my voice.

I’M A VOICE IN THIS WORLD AND I DESERVE TO BE HEARD!